I must admit that I have been taking a break from cycle commuting for the most part since I finished my 50/50 Challenge. However, yesterday I woke up and it was pretty cold. I couldn’t resist riding into the shop to finish up some work before the Outdoor Retailer show and to sew up some custom bumpers I’ve been working on for the FIRST Robotics team: Agate Robotics. That’s another reason I’ve been taking a break from commuting. The Robotics team is new, and although it is fun to be an adult mentor, it is pretty intense during the 6 week build season. Suffice it to say, I was excited to ride when it was well below zero, and there was a “wind-chill warning” for pretty much the entire state of Minnesota.
I really don’t think riding in the cold is that bad, even though almost everyone that sees me thinks I’m crazy. The key is to dress properly. In the winter I always wear long underwear, and my favorite is Icebreaker merino wool. I rode all last winter mostly wearing shoes and gaiters, but when it’s below zero, I pull out the insulated boots. One layer of wool socks with these boots is fine. I dress in layers; wool base, a sweater, a couple of fleece jackets and a breathable shell. The shell keeps out the wind. On my hands I wear some mountaineering gloves with full gauntlets. On my head I wear a warm hat and a scarf that I can pull up over my face. If it were any colder, goggles would have been in order! Of course always wear a helmet.
My bike was cold, as it was left outside. The only problem I had besides having to air up the studded tires, was that the freewheel was not “catching.” However, after a few revolutions, it reluctantly clicked, and I was on my way.
I tried to take a few photos with my iPhone, and my hands got chilled right away. No worries, I just pull my fingers out of the digits of the gloves and form them into a ball one at a time as I ride, and within a few minutes my hands are toasty again.
The snow was drifted in a few areas, but the roads were mostly clear, and the studded tires were solid on the snow. The 7.4 miles flew by, and I was reminded again about that feeling of freedom I get when I ride. I again experienced the stream of creative thought that comes as you travel by your own power.
I just wanted to let everyone know that you can ride all winter long, even in below zero temperatures as long as you’re well prepared. The first few times you try it you will probably over-dress. It takes a few rides to get the right amount of layers based on the temperature and the wind, but modern breathable shells make it much easier.
What’s the coldest you’ll ride? Please comment.